Monday, January 20, 2014

Haiti Earthquake vs. Chile Earthquake and Recovery

article from December 13, 2010
By Jamie Douglas

This year has brought two major natural disasters in the form of the massively destructive earthquakes in Haiti and Chile. Haiti, being the poorest nation in the hemisphere, never mind its decades-long political instability, seems to have suffered the most, as the infrastructure was not in place for dealing with a catastrophe of this scale.
After a natural disaster such as the ones that befall these two nations, it is only normal that people start “looting.” But it must be understood that the people who were raiding the supermarkets for water and food were not looters; rather, they were looking to survive and take care of their families, as social order had broken down. However, when you see people coming out of stores with flat-screen TVs, washing machines and domestic appliances, I think you can apply the term “looter” without reservation.

Earthquake in Haiti

After the earthquake in Haiti, all hell broke loose. The prison collapsed, the Presidential Palace collapsed like a wedding cake, and the harbor was damaged to the point where it was not possible for the first rescuers to land. The international community rallied, promising billions of US$ in aid and sending emissaries, including two former US presidents, Bush and Clinton, to the scene, in a show of moral support. It was during that ex-presidential visit where one could really see that Kanye West’s statement that “George Bush doesn’t care about black people” had some truth to it.

While President Clinton and President Bush were in the crowd, after someone shook Bush’s hand, he actually wiped his hand on President Clinton’s shirtsleeve, as if he had touched something toxic. Rebuilding in Haiti really is stalled, and now the cholera outbreak, torrential rains and passing hurricanes have made things even worse for the populace there. Rumors were spread that the cholera bacillus was being spread by Nepalese UN soldiers, which turned out to be true, although it was the result of leakage from one of Haiti’s own sewage pipes.

No real rebuilding is going on there, with the exception of a few luxury properties, and most of the billions that have been promised have not materialized. There is no “Operation Bootstrap,” where those who help themselves get help. Instead, the victims are living in tents and under tarps, on top of the ruins of their country. Very few are making an effort to try to rebuild their homes and businesses. Commerce is done in the open, crime is rampant, and they are still waiting for help that will never arrive. Reconstruction will have to be accomplished somehow by the citizens of Haiti themselves.

Earthquake in Chile

I was watching live pictures from the earthquake zone in Chile on TV just after it happened, and there was some looting there as well, but within 48 hours, the Army and Carabineris had established curfews and were guarding properties. Then came the heavy equipment that started demolishing properties that were unsafe. People were sleeping in the streets and helping each other out as well as they could. There were a few bad incidents as well, which should not be overlooked, but within a few days, repairs and rebuilding had begun. US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton arrived, hugged people, shook hands, promised aid and did not wipe her hand on anyone. And today, Chile is way ahead in the recovery phase compared to Haiti. Aid was quick in being delivered to Chile from all of its neighbors, and no Christian aid groups tried to steal children and smuggle them to a neighboring country. In fact, because Chile is overwhelmingly Catholic, there was very little aid offered from the American evangelicals.

Haiti just can´t catch a break

Haiti is a lot closer to the USA than Chile, but Haiti has had so much bad press in the USA that people just did not really care that much. Could it be because they are all poor and black? Or could it be that they are not just the poorest, but also the most corrupt country in the hemisphere? Ever since the French left their former colony impoverished and in ruins, things have just been going downhill for the regular Haitians. When they do make a desperate attempt to reach the shores of the USA, they are incarcerated by the Home of the Free, while Cubans benefit from the “wet foot, dry foot” policy, which gives them automatic asylum if they manage to crawl onto a beach in the Florida Keys.

What Haiti needs is not money – nor missionaries. They need rebar, cement, building blocks, pipes, water treatment plants and lineman, just to mention a few items. Any monetary donations will be abused by agencies all over the world as overhead and salaries, and the little that will trickle down to Haiti surely will be absconded with and end up in corrupt officials’ bank accounts in the Cayman Islands and Panama.

And now, the recent rigged elections and riots that followed ...and Sarah Palin?

Jamie Douglas in Patagonia

[Image of Haitian Presidential Palace via Wikipedia]

I encourage you to write me at cruzansailor [at] gmail [dot] com with any questions or suggestions you may have. Disclaimer: I am not in any travel-related business. My advice is based on my own experiences and is free of charge (Donations welcome). It is always my pleasure to act as a beneficial counselor to those who are seekers of the next adventure.